Telecoms shake-up will help SMEs, in the long-term

SMEs should be able to take advantage of improved broadband services as Ofcom announces a huge shake-up of telecoms in the UK.

One of the most significant proposals suggested by Ofcom is a major reform of Openreach, the network division of BT.

Openreach is to become a distinct company. Openreach should be a legally separate company within BT Group, with its own ‘Articles of Association’. The company, and its directors, would be required to make decisions in the interests of all Openreach’s customers, and to promote the success of the company.

This model will provide Openreach with the greatest degree of independence from BT Group that is possible without incurring the costs and disruption – to industry and consumers – associated with separating the companies entirely.

In addition, in the coming months Ofcom will carry out further work on:

  • Tough performance rules on Openreach. Later this year we will set out stricter minimum requirements for Openreach to repair faults and install new lines more quickly.
  • Performance tables. From next year, we will publish tables on communications providers’ quality of service, showing the best and worst performers on a range of measures so that customers can shop around with confidence.
  • Coverage checkers by address. We plan to update our interactive maps to offer even more comprehensive information on mobile and broadband coverage by individual address, not just postcode.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: “We’re pressing ahead with the biggest shake-up of telecoms in a decade, to make sure the market is delivering the best possible services for people and business across the UK.”

However, editor Andrew Ferguson warns that there is little reason to get prematurely excited, as the changes are unlikely to be immediate.

Ferguson says, “Clearly these changes are not going to happen overnight, and there is no magic pot of extra investment money available but this may change and this is the key to the success of the new company. For example, will it have the financial resources to do what customers such as Sky and TalkTalk want or will it be hamstrung by trying to please everyone and thus continue to perform as it does now?

“Today brings little immediate change, just like Brexit and no radical proposals are made on service levels other than Ofcom will review the standards set later in the year and the escalating minimum service standards set of the last two years will continue.

“For those waiting on better broadband connectivity todays new brings the promise of a very different UK market in three to five years’ time, but for those crying out now for a better broadband connection the negotiations and the time needed for the new Openreach to gain its feet mean no big change to the existing roll-outs.”